Sweden refugees
Refugees walk in the grounds of Sweden's largest temporary camp for asylum seekers, at the former Restad Gård psychiatric hospital in Vänersborg David Ramos/Getty Images

A study looking into the health of migrants has found those who initially settled in a deprived neighbourhood are more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes.

The research was the result of an initiative by the Swedish government, which haphazardly dispersed refugees across the country with different levels of poverty and unemployment, schooling, and social welfare participation.

Over two decades, 61,386 refugees, who arrived in Sweden between 1987 and 1991, were compared for the study, published by Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology.

Researchers used data on immigrants from countries whose residents were fleeing, and selected those who obtained Swedish residence permits during the peak years of the resettlement programme. They also limited their sample to the 25 to 50 years age group. People who had been resettled in the most deprived neighbourhoods were 15% more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes than those in the least deprived areas.

Although there have been many theories that regional conditions play an important role in health, it has been difficult to prove with considerable examples. Justin White, one of the study authors, said: "We found that living in a high deprivation neighbourhood led to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, compared to living in the least deprived areas. Although the increased risk was small, we found that the effect accumulated over time."

He has pointed out tovarious factors that explain the link between the neighbourhood and its health effects — such as increased exposure to stress from living in high crime area, or poor employment opportunities resulting in not enough money to buy proper good food, or not being able to walk safely outdoors.

Adding that the study was highly relevant to Europe's current refugee crisis, White said: "It shows the decisions these governments make now will have long-lasting impacts on the lives of refugees, many of whom will remain in Europe for decades to come. Investing in their well-being today could lessen the burden on health and social support systems.

"The increased risk didn't develop immediately, which is consistent with the way neighbourhoods are thought to affect health, and chronic diseases in particular."